A lot of seasoned travelers will tell you that visiting Kyoto is all about diving into rich history and marveling at temples, shrines and other architectural masterpieces. But if have a couple of days in the former Japanese capital, and you want to experience something different, then put the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove on your list.
The name Arashiyama also refers to a district nestled at the base of mountains on the west of Kyoto. Together with the area called Sagano on the northern part of the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama is considered to be one of the most important sightseeing areas in Kyoto. For centuries, Arashiyama has been widely visited and admired for its beautiful natural setting. It is particularly popular during the cherry blossom season and autumn, when changing leaf color accentuates the area’s beauty and appeal.
Among all attractions in the district, the Bamboo Grove easily stands out because of its uniqueness. Instead of a temple or a shrine, you will have the chance to explore an extraordinary forest. The grove is populated by a myriad of bamboo stalks, as far as the eye can see. The distinct form of a bamboo tree, together with its deep and rich green color creates a beautiful effect, especially when the sunlight comes peeking through. Some even commented that it is indeed a “magical” and “ethereal” spot. I think that with the right lighting contrast, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove could be a photographer’s dream come true. Apparently photographers are not the only ones enamored by the grove. During your visit, you will most likely encounter local painters who usually set up in one spot, and spend the entire day capturing the beauty of the Bamboo Grove. Although I’m not entirely sure, my best guess is that some of these painters sell their work on the spot.
The Bamboo Grove is split into two sides by a road that winds through for about a kilometer. The road is perfectly set up for people to take a relaxing stroll through the forest. The more common entrance to the site is the north gate of the Tenryu-Temple. If you walk from here, the other end leads you to the Ohkouchi Sansou Villa.
Opened from 9 am to 5 pm, the villa is the former residence of the famous Okochi Denjiro. Due to its proximity to the Bamboo Grove, Okochi Sanso Villa has also received its fair share of visitors over the years. The villa and its complex is mainly visited for its gorgeous garden and nice buildings. If you are willing to pay the admission fee of 1000 yen, you will get to walk around the garden path as well as sample green tea and Japanese snacks.
The only drawback of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove stems from its own widespread popularity. Indeed the place is as inherently serene as I imagined; but because of the influx of tourists coming in from both directions, the atmosphere of serenity can easily be lost. The best thing to do is come very in the morning or stay a little later in the afternoon. Fortunately, this is also the time when natural lighting is at its best, given that it’s a normal sunny day.
The Bamboo Grove makes a perfect brief, but meaningful stop on a full-day sightseeing in Kyoto. I walked through the Grove for about 20-30 minutes and I felt that was sufficient time for me. But if you wish to spend more time, there are nearby gardens and ponds that you can walk to. There are even hiking trails that will take you to lookout points and a children’s park. These sites provide a wonderful respite to the sometimes overwhelming crowd present in busier spots around Kyoto.
Getting to Kyoto’s Bamboo Grove
The Bamboo Grove is only a 10-minute walk away from the Saga Arashiyama Station of the JR Sagano Line. So if you have already have a JR Pass, then you can use it to reach the site without paying extra. Be sure to take the regular JR line and not the express one, as this does not stop at Arashiyama.
Another option to get here is to take the Henkyu Railway to Arashiyama Station, which is about a 15-minute walk to the Bamboo Grove.
If you are not in a hurry and would like to see the rest of the Arashiyama and Sagano sites like the Tenryu-Ji Temple, consider renting bicycles for leisurely exploration of the district.
How to get from Arashiyama Bamboo Grove to Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
After visiting the Bamboo Grove, we wanted to go straight to the famous Kinkaku-ji Temple (a.k.a – the Golden Pavilion) from the Grove. You can always hire a taxi to do this. There is a taxi stand just beside the main road outside the entrance to the Bamboo Grove. A cheaper alternative is to wait for a bus at the stand along the main road. The schedule for the bus routes are posted on the bus stand. Look for Kyoto City Bus 59 as it stops at Kinkaku-ji Mae, the access point to the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion).
Where did we stay in Kyoto?
Our main priority when it came to finding our room in Kyoto was to find something close to Gion and Kyoto’s public transport options without spending a fortune. Eventually we decided to stay at Santiago Guesthouse Kyoto. We don’t have any affiliation with this property or any in Kyoto, therefore our opinion of it is completely unbiased. Overall, it was a pretty good place to stay (as a budget option). Nice friendly atmosphere with pleasant staff, but it’s not overly private so if you’re seeking something more relaxing and serene I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re on a budget it’s a solid choice. At the time of writing it had a respectable score of 8.2/10 based on 451 verified guest reviews. It was about five minutes from Gion which made it super convenient.
Finding the Cheapest Rooms in Kyoto
The rooms in Kyoto and Japan in general can get expensive, especially during peak season. Therefore, try to use a large booking site such as agoda.com or booking.com. They offer a massive selection of rooms to suit all budgets. If you want to compare the top hotel sites in the world then use hotelscombined.com. I have created a link to their respective properties in Kyoto to save you some time:
Top Rated Properties on Kyoto Based on Verified Guest Reviews
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|Star/Budget Range||Guest Rating: Hotel Provider 1||Guest Rating: Hotel Provider 2|
|Agoda.com (Kyoto)||Booking.com (Kyoto)|
|5 stars/Luxury||Kyoto Brighton Hotel – 8.6/10||Hana-Touro Stay Yasakano-Tou Machiya Premium – 9.5/10|
|4stars/Comfort||Kyoyado Usagi Hotel – 9.2/10||Jeugiya – 9.9/10|
|2 star/ Budget||Kamo River Kiyomizugojo Guest House in Kyoto – 9.3/10||Guesthouse Engawa – 9.8/10|
|1 star/ Strict Budget||Centurion Cabin and Spa Kyoto -9.1/10||Guest House Oumi – 9.6/10|
|Compare all room prices in Kyoto using www.agoda.com||Compare all room prices on Kyoto using booking.com|
- Properties rated based on ‘overall’ review scores from each respective website’s verified guests.
- Minimum of 50 verified guest reviews required to be considered eligible for comparison.
- All star ratings and verified guest review scores are tallied at the time of writing, and therefore, are subject to change.
Alternatively, the search box below will quickly find you the cheapest rooms for your intended dates in the city:
If you are booking a room in April, then book well in advance as this is peak season in Kyoto. You can also use the search box below if you want to save time finding the cheapest room in Kyoto: